WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Food and Drug Administration urged blood banks to screen donations for Zika virus in an announcement Friday.
The FDA had previously only recommended that donation centers in areas with local transmissions – like Florida – perform the screening.
“There is still much uncertainty regarding the nature and extent of Zika virus transmission,” said Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “At this time, the recommendation for testing the entire blood supply will help ensure that safe blood is available for all individuals who might need transfusion.”
Expanded testing will reduce the risk of Zika, FDA officials said. The testing protocol will be in effect until the risk of Zika transmission is reduced.
The expansion isn’t effective across the country immediately, but should be started within 12 weeks. Eleven states with proximity to cases, including New York, have been advised to implement the recommendations as soon as possible, but not later than 4 weeks from today.
The virus is primarily transmitted by mosquito, but can also be spread by sexual contact. People infected with Zika experience fevers, joint pains and rashes. Infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects.
“It’s clear that additional precautionary measures are necessary,” said Luciana Borio, the FDA’s acting chief scientist. “We are issuing revised guidance for immediate implementation in order to help maintain the safety of the U.S. blood supply.”
Blood banks already test for HIV, West Nile and hepatitis, among other blood-borne viruses. About 2,500 cases of Zika have been reported in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.